It’s every hockey coach and player’s dream — winning an NHL title and holding the Stanley Cup over your head. After you win it once, you usually want to try again and again with the same core players and the same coach leading the way, but that might not happen for the Washington Capitals. Head coach Barry Trotz resigned on June 18, 2018, less than two weeks after winning the title.
That leaves Alex Ovechkin, probably the best hockey player in the world, and the Capitals in the lurch when they start their title defense in the 2018-19 season. You have to go back to 2002 to find the last time a Stanley Cup-winning coach didn’t return to the same team the next season.
The title Stanley Cup win ended a long drought for Washington, D.C., sports titles. The Cup victory came shortly after the Capitals ended another playoff curse — not reaching the Eastern Conference finals for years despite having several successful teams. Trotz is one of the most successful coaches in the NHL today, and he was a key reason the team finally got over the hump.
“After careful consideration and consultation with my family, I am officially announcing my resignation as head coach of the Washington Capitals,” Trotz said in a statement.
So why did Trotz resign? As with so many things in sports, it all comes down to money, according to The Washington Post.
The Capitals didn’t offer Trotz a contract extension before the start of the season, which is rare for two reasons.
Most coaches in most sports have their contracts extended before the final year of the deal, but that didn’t happen with Trotz. He was a lame-duck coach in the same season he won the Stanley Cup, but not getting an extension is even worse since he’s No. 5 on the all-time wins list for coaches.
Winning the title Stanley Cup triggered an automatic two-year contract extension for Trotz at a $1.5 million base salary. It’s a lot of money for most people, but that’s a small salary in the world of NHL title-winning coaches. So Barry Trotz resigned, whether to seek a better deal with Washington or to become a head coach somewhere else in the league.
Trotz is on a short list of NHL coaches who left their teams after winning the Stanley Cup. In order of years, this is the list:
- Scotty Bowman, 1979 Montreal Canadiens
- Bob Johnson, 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins
- Mike Keenan, 1994 New York Rangers
- Scotty Bowman, 2002 Detroit Red Wings
Bowman left Montreal to be the Buffalo Sabres General Manager. Johnson had a brain aneurysm and died from brain cancer in November 1991. Keenan left New York to become the St. Louis Blues’ head coach. Bowman retired from coaching in 2002, though he still works in the NHL in the Chicago Blackhawks organization.
Barry Trotz resigned after winning the Stanley Cup and joined a brief list of NHL coaches to do the same, but he’s in good company. Bowman, Johnson, and Keenan are all Hockey Hall of Fame members. With the company like that, we’re sure we’ll see Trotz on the bench really soon.